Join us for these very special events that embody the spirit of the RIVERS Festival:
Examining of the significance of rivers in music and culture, the impact they have had throughout history and their importance for the future of our planet.

Chicago River Day

May 11
In 1992, Friends of the Chicago River hosted 25 volunteers for “Chicago River Rescue Day.” That small group “rescued” the river by pulling old shopping carts, mattresses, and plastic bags from its banks. Little did they know that day would continue year after year, evolving into Chicago River Day which now hosts over 4,000 volunteers at 70 sites along the river annually.


We cordially invite you to join Friends, the CSO and over 4,000 volunteers with thousands more beyond the banks for the 21st Chicago River Day. Volunteers will gather for a day of hands-on environmental work along the Chicago River. Volunteers range in age from pre-schoolers to seniors, represent a wide variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds, and reside throughout the 673-square mile Chicago River watershed. They work side-by-side to collect garbage and sort for recycling, remove invasive vegetation, spruce up river-edge trails, plant native seedlings, and much more. [More Information]

Yo-Yo Ma

May 18
Our RIVERS Festival symposia will explore the physical, economic, political and cultural forces exerted by rivers through a sequence of conversations and music. Using the Mississippi and the Amazon as case studies, we hope to bring our public to a richly contextualized understanding of the dependence that our art-form and its audience have on the earth’s rivers. This event will take place on the Armour Stage of Orchestra Hall.


The Day’s Program

  • 10:00-10:45: Music of the Mississippi
  • 10:45-11:30: Panel 1: The Mississippi River
  • 11:30-12:15: Music of the Amazon
  • 12:15-1:00: Panel 2: The Amazon River
  • 1:00-1:45: Music From Around the World: Western classical tradition
  • 1:45-2:30: Panel 3: Broader questions and conclusions: Rivers as global forces

Jerome McDonnell, Moderator
Yo-Yo Ma, Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
John Briscoe, Professor of the Practice of Environmental Engineering, Harvard University
David Blackbourn, Professor of History, Vanderbilt University
Jerome Delli Priscoli, Senior Advisor, Institute for Water Resources at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Michael Silvers, Ph.D. Ethnomusicology, UCLA

Ping Tom Memorial Park

June 9
We invite members of the public to enjoy music and the River simultaneously, with a diverse array of performers from the Chicago community performing in the open-air, including the Chicago Children’s Choir and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass. Floating from Michigan Avenue to Ping Tom Memorial Park, members of the CSO family aboard Chicago’s Leading Lady will bring music to crowds and passersby while taking full advantage of any river’s strongest commonality with music: the power to move.

The celebration is timed to coincide with the completion and unveiling of the new boathouse at Ping Tom Memorial Park, and is presented in partnership with the Chicago Park District, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and Friends of the Chicago River. Live music and family activities will be planned for Ping Tom Memorial Park in the hours leading up to the arrival of the boat.